The King of College Sailing

Ian Barrows reflects on four years of success and looks forward to the future.
Downwind racing at college nationals
College nationals was hosted by the College of Charleston and took place on the Cooper River. Courtesy David Maybank IV

“It was pretty overwhelming,” says Ian Barrows of the moment he learned he’d been selected 2017 Marlow Ropes College Sailor of the Year. “I was really happy for myself and for giving that honor to Yale.” The U.S. Virgin Islands native also acknowledged the support of his parents, and his brother for “being a good role model and giving me goals to strive for. For his crews, he thanked them for “being nice and dealing with me when I can be annoying at times.” For Barrows, a four-time All-American skipper, the top college sailing honor furthers an impressive resume that also includes 2016 NEISA Sailor of the year, ICSA team race nationals wins in 2015 and 2016, and two high school national championship titles for Antilles High School in St. Thomas, USVI, as well as a youth Olympic gold medal.

What was your strategy and mindset going into this season?

I was trying to be consistent and trying not to do any risky moves. I realized there were going to be a lot of races during the whole year, so if I have a bad one it’s really not that big of a deal and there will be a lot more ahead. Trying to be optimistic and not getting down when things aren’t going well is a big part of it.


What’s your biggest motivation?

I try not to think about achievements, I just try to have fun. I notice when I start thinking about achievements and awards, I end up doing worse.

Tell me about your most memorable race this year.


We had a really good race against Georgetown in team racing at the Nationals. We were in a 3,4,5 around the leeward mark and it was pretty windy. The 1, 2 had a nice lead on us and we were able to catch up right at the end. The race ended up coming down to inches. It was an exciting race and a lot of fun.

Ian Barrows and crew compete in light breeze.
Ian Barrows and crew compete in light breeze. Courtesy David Maybank IV

What is your greatest strength as a competitor?

I’m level headed and optimistic, and I don’t give my competitors a reason to be my enemy.


Who is the biggest influencer to your sailing career?

My brother, he is older than me, so I’ve never had to race against him, instead I’ve tried to accomplish what he has accomplished, and try to do better. He’s a good person too. [Thomas Barrows competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the Laser Class and 2016 Rio Olympics in the 49er. He was also named College Sailor of the Year in 2010, sailing for Yale.]

Barrows headshot
Barrows looks forward to continuing his career post-Yale sailing. Yale Athletics

What will stick with you from this year’s college nationals?


Seeing the [Yale] women’s team win was really exciting. I don’t know if they were expecting to win or not but they were all ecstatic so that was pretty awesome.

If you could give future college sailors any advice what would it be?

Realize you are going to sail a lot of regattas, every regatta isn’t too important. Always be nice to your crews, and make as many friends as you can.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to start sailing 49ers and hopefully do an Olympic campaign.